Saturday, December 3, 2022
HomeOpinionIs Christian Nationalism Tearing Ethiopia Apart? A Response to Andrew DeCort. 

Is Christian Nationalism Tearing Ethiopia Apart? A Response to Andrew DeCort. 

Tedla Woldeyohannes (Ph.D.) ( credit : Huntington

Tedla Woldeyohannes (Ph.D.) 

The title of Andrew DeCort’s essay—”Christian Nationalism is Tearing Ethiopia Apart”1– – is one main reason why I decided to read it to see if the writer provides any good reason to support  an outlandish claim the title communicates. Anyone who is a keen observer of the current situation in Ethiopia could tell that there is no way Andrew can show, based on facts, that “Christian  nationalism is tearing Ethiopia apart” as a country. Anyone who is familiar with the situation in  Ethiopia can replace “Christian nationalism” with “extreme ethno-nationalism” and can provide  conclusive evidence to the support the claim that extreme ethno-nationalism is tearing Ethiopia  apart.  

Now one key question needs an answer, that is: Why did Andrew decide to give the  impression to his readers that “Christian nationalism” is the root cause for the potential demise of  Ethiopia? I will leave for Andrew to answer this question, which I very much doubt he will. Why  do I say this? Andrew has a habit of writing sensational articles or often Facebook posts and avoids  critical responses to his writings. He wants to create an appearance of responding to his critics, on  Facebook, by repeating his own assertions often and claiming that his critics misunderstood him,  or whatever he thinks could absolve him from a real engagement. He is famous for un-tagging  himself from Facebook posts when he is expected to respond to criticisms. He has done that to me  several times and as a result I’ve stopped tagging him.  

In a more serious manner, here is one other evasion of engagement by Andrew from my  experience. In December 2019, I wrote a critical essay I titled, “A Portrait of Jawar Mohammed  by Andrew DeCort”2, which I concluded by saying this: “There are a lot of things Andrew needs  to explain to his readers of the interview he conducted with Jawar. I do not know whether he will  do that or not.” He never responded to my challenges except trying to engage me, in an evasive  manner. That was on Facebook. I am writing this piece to show how Andrew used a title for an  article, which I also take to be the heart of his message, which he intended his readers to believe  to be the case about Ethiopia. I argue below that Andrew has not provided any good reason for  anyone to believe that Christian nationalism is tearing Ethiopia apart. His more subtle goal in  writing his article is this: He wanted to DIVERT the attention of the international community note where he has published his essay– from the real cause for the potential demise of Ethiopia,  which is the logical outworking of ethnic federalism by its active and destructive players, extreme  ethno-nationalists. No one who is even superficially informed about Ethiopian politics needs  evidence in this essay about what extreme ethno-nationalism has done and is doing to Ethiopia. 

Here is one more subtle point Andrew aimed to accomplish in his article: Oromo nationalists and those who are staunch supporters of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front  (TPLF) have made, for decades, fabricated narratives about the Amhara people as oppressors and  the Oromo people and the Tigrayan people, among others, as the oppressed. The deadly narrative  against the Amhara people is taking its toll, to a new level, as I write this piece with the massacre  of over 300 innocent Amharas in the Western Oromia region. This is just the latest in the series of  massacres of unarmed, innocent Amharas, especially in the last four years since the current prime  minister has assumed power. The current Ethiopian prime minister is an Oromo himself and he  has been implementing what extreme Oromo nationalists have been demanding for years. I’ve  written several articles on this in 2016. See my articles.3In October 2020, I’ve written a critical  essay on Prof. Andreas Eshete, a fellow Ethiopian philosopher, on his role in the drafting of the  Ethiopian constitution, which is the foundational document for ethnic federalism.4 

I submit that it is too obvious for any observer of Ethiopian politics, especially in the last  four years, to miss the fact that ethnic conflicts, and often ethnic-cleansings committed against,  especially, the Amhara people have one key cause, that is, the hate-filled false narratives about  the Amharas as the oppressors and the others, mainly, the Oromos as the victims. It is also crucial  to note what has happened during the recent civil war, for lack of a better term, in northern  Ethiopia—the Amhara region, in Tigray, and in Afar. How can anyone ignore, as Andrew did in  his essay, the role of ethnic federalism as the most prominent cause in shaping the views of those  in the power struggle behind the most recent deadly war in northern Ethiopia? Was the main  reason for this war “Christian nationalism” in even remote sense? Only Andrew would believe this  to be the case!  

Andrew writes about the current prime minister of Ethiopia, “In an early speech, Abiy  announced himself as Ethiopia’s “seventh king,” a reference to his Orthodox mother’s prophecy  over him as a child. This self-presentation powerfully evoked the ancient history of Ethiopia’s  Christian imperialism and the promise of Ethiopia’s restored greatness”. How can any reasonable  person take seriously what Abiy said about what his mother told him that he would be the 7th Ethiopian king, which plays a key tole in Andrew’s case for “Christian nationalism”? The era of  monarchy in Ethiopia had come to an end in 1974, about which Andrew also writes. Is there any  credible evidence that shows those who long to see the time of emperors restored in Ethiopia in  the sense that they are playing an active political role in current Ethiopia? Where is the evidence  Andrew provided for us about his claim that connects the “imperial Ethiopia” (gone in 1974) to  “Christian nationalism” when the latter is used as the justification for the existence of the former,  which no longer exists? What a blatant contradiction!  

Consider what Andrew says about Daniel Kibret, who is an adviser to the prime minister  and a member of the parliament. Daniel is an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Andrew writes, “Abiy  started publicly elevating extremist voices in the Orthodox Church like Daniel Kibret, a prominent  Orthodox scholar behind Mahibere Kidusan or the “communion of saints.” This powerful group  is a right-ring Orthodox youth movement with the mission, in part, of restoring the Orthodox  Church’s historic hegemony.” Ethiopia is on the verge of collapse due to the politics of extreme  ethno-nationalists, especially extreme Oromo ethno-nationalists who are committing ethnic  cleansing of the Amharas in the Oromia region. How can anyone who has a little desire for truth  and justice talk about Daniel Kibret’s role in relation to the prime minister when those who have  been slaughtered time and again are ethnic Amharas about which Daniel Kibret has not done  anything to stop their senseless deaths? Is Daniel Kibret working to “restore” the dead imperial  Ethiopia ruled by Orthodox Christians while witnessing the massacre of his own people, the  Amharas, most of whom are Orthodox Christians? What kind of logic is Andrew using to support  his warped claim that “Christian nationalism is tearing Ethiopia apart? According to Andrew’s  logic, is Daniel Kibret going to preside over a non-existent country since in his view Ethiopia is  being torn apart? There is no basis in reality which Andrew can use to support his claim, which is a deliberate distortion of the reality of the suffering innocent people in Ethiopia in the name of  someone who cares about all Ethiopians.  

Andrew tried to make a point about his claim that “Christian nationalism is tearing Ethiopia apart” by talking about the role of Abiy Ahmed in the formation of the Ethiopian Evangelical Council (EEC). Did Abiy play a role in the coming into existence of the ECC and has he used it  for his political cause? Absolutely. I’ve talked about this in videos and have been a vocal critic of  Abiy’s use of Ethiopian Evangelicals by way of ECC or otherwise. But what does this show?  Christian nationalism that is bent on restoring imperial Ethiopia? How? Note that Ethiopian  Evangelicals are Ethiopians, obviously, and they have interest in the history of their country. I am  one of them. But to conflate the role “Christianity” has played in Ethiopian history as one and the  same for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Evangelical Christians in Ethiopia is at best naïve and  at worst disingenuous. 

Here is what Andrew says that he thinks could support his claim about “Christian  nationalism”: “Abiy’s Christian expansionism energized “dominionist” and “seven mountain”  theology in Ethiopia. This political theology promotes the idea that if Christians can control key  sectors like politics, business, and culture, then society can be “captured for Christ.” This is the  Pentecostal parallel to Orthodox imperialism stretching back to Ezana.” Think about his claim, a  “Pentecostal parallel to Orthodox imperialism stretching back to Ezana.” I submit that this claim  is Andrew’s *stretching his reasons* to support his-out-of-touch-with-reality-claim about  “Christian nationalism.” Here are some reasons why I said the above:  

Ethiopian evangelicals, in general, have been the least politically engaged group in  Ethiopia before Abiy came to power. Their theology was other-worldly for the most part in the  sense that their main focus was on the salvation of their souls with an eye on eternal life. Their  true world is the other world—life after this life. This view has been supported by the secular 

spiritual divide for Ethiopian evangelicals, which has been their hallmark until Abiy Ahmed  assumed power. I’m not saying for most Ethiopian evangelicals their theology has changed that  much. Those who threw themselves into the political arena are mostly driven by personal benefits  they could get by association with the first evangelical prime minister in their lifetime. Andrew  has said as much about the benefits some evangelicals are getting in virtue of their connection to  the prime minister.

Now where does Andrew go wrong then? How can “Christian nationalism” as Andrew  claims be anywhere in explaining what is going on with Ethiopian evangelicals which, as he  claims, “parallels to Orthodox imperialism stretching back to Ezana”? Nowhere. We are talking  about opportunistic evangelical Ethiopians who have no overarching desire to “restore” the  greatness of imperial Ethiopia. For any Ethiopian evangelical mind such a claim makes zero sense.  Note this: Ethiopian evangelicals have a complex relationship with the Ethiopian Orthodox church.  This is a fact which cannot be simplified to create a false and misguided Christian nationalist  narrative which has no basis in reality. Probably most Ethiopian evangelicals have an Orthodox  Christian background. For the record: I’m an evangelical Christian but I was born to an Ethiopia  Orthodox Christian priest. Embracing evangelical Christian faith involves a way of thinking about  the history of Ethiopia differently. For most evangelicals, Ethiopia was not a “Christian nation” as  most Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe. I do not need to get into a complex relationship  between these two families of the Christian faith when even superficially showing the complexity  is sufficient to refute how simplistic Andrew’s claim is about “Christian nationalism” as a threat  to Ethiopia. 

One more thing to add: The Ethiopia now in reality is a deeply fractured nation due to  ethnic federalism that has nearly decimated the deep and long-standing relationships among ethnic  groups that compose a country called Ethiopia. Even if we grant for the sake of argument, which  in reality is false, that Orthodox Christians are trying to restore the imperial Ethiopia—again this  has no basis in reality—how can anyone miss the primacy of ethnic identity in the current Ethiopia  so much so that it is ethnic identity that plays a more active role dividing people in Ethiopia than  anything else? Have we not seen the massacres of Orthodox Amharas in the Oromia region by  extreme Oromo nationalists? See my article mentioned above for more on this.5 How can this be  a way of reasoning to the conclusion that Christian nationalism by the Orthodox Christians is a  threat to the existence of Ethiopia? It is because of their ethnic identity that the Amharas have been  slaughtered again and again in the Oromia region. Is this about religious nationalism of any sort  let alone Christian nationalism as Andrew wants his readers to believe? The answer is too obvious to need stating it.  

Given, again, the reality of ethnic federalism and how people are divided along linguistic  and ethnic lines in Ethiopia in the last 28 years, how is “Christian nationalism”, whatever that  means, a way of restoring the imperial Ethiopia? Is it even imaginable to restore “the imperial  Ethiopia” given the reality of, once again, ethnic federalism? Andrew must be talking about  “Ethiopia” the rest of us are no longer familiar with! I reiterate here what I’ve said above:  Andrew’s message in his essay is a deliberate DIVERSION from what is happening in Ethiopia  to a *cause* for Ethiopia’s problems that exists in Andrew’s imagination and those whose agenda  has become his agenda—extreme Oromo nationalists. One does not need to come out and say I  support extreme Oromo nationalists. Who needs such a confession when the evidence speaks for  itself?  

Finally, some things to add for the record: For anyone who might suspect that I’m an  Amhara because I expressed my deep concern about what the Amhara people have been going  through, the truth is that I am not an Amhara. I’m from the south, from Wolaita. I reject the false  narrative that Amharas were the oppressors, which is used for political mobilization by Oromo  nationalists and the TPLF. Andrew wants me, from the south, to believe that I was oppressed by  the Amharas or the non-existing “imperial Ethiopia with its Orthodox hegemony.” How  convenient! Just for the record, I’m partly an Oromo as well. But ethnic identity plays the least  role in my life.  

I do not argue here, but my view is that ethnic federalism is the most ill-conceived solution  to Ethiopia’s problems, whatever the problems were when ethnic federalism was introduced as a  solution. See my article on Prof. Andreas Eshete for my critical view on Prof. Andreas’s role in  supporting ethnic federalism. As an evangelical Christian, I have never shied away from being a  consistently critical voice when the current prime minister has used and misused his religious affiliation for his political purpose. As someone from Wolaita, I did write an open letter to the  former Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, who is from Wolaita, to resign.6 Neither  my religious affiliation, nor my ethnic identity play any role in my commitment to truth and justice.  I’m against human rights violations of any and all Ethiopians. I do not relate to any Ethiopian  based on their ethnic identities. I try to treat everyone as fellow human beings and fellow  Ethiopians, however they think about their identity. See my article on my view about Ethiopian  national identity.7I added these last two paragraphs to dispel any potential myth about who I am  or what motivated me to write this essay. I decided to write this essay because the claims Andrew  made are out-of-touch-with-reality and hence such a view would cause harm. My goal is to show  my readers the errors in Andrew’s reasoning and his main claim that “Christian nationalism is  tearing Ethiopia apart” is blatantly false. What is tearing Ethiopia apart is profound hate that has  found justification in ethnic federalism. 

It is important to note this: I know Andrew personally and have defended him in public for  his genuine love for Ethiopia. Following all available evidence about his thoughts and activities  involving Ethiopia, at this moment, I think of him as another “Abiy Ahmed” who tells Ethiopians  how much he loves Ethiopia while working diligently to see the Ethiopia we know to cease to  exist. In the name of “love your neighbor” project, he has convinced many Ethiopians that he is  working to promote neighbor-love among all Ethiopians. That is just not true. His deliberate  distortion of what is happening in Ethiopia as “Christian nationalism” when this is not true is a  case in point. Where there is no truth, there is no true love. He might still claim that he loves Ethiopia, but the evidence does not show that he actually loves Ethiopia. He thinks he loves  Ethiopia, but he does things that will bring about the cessation of Ethiopia as we know it. A  moment’s self-reflection can help here.  

Abiy Ahmed told millions about his love for Ethiopia from day one when he assumed  power. I never believed him since he never made a commitment to bring about a fundamental  change in Ethiopia by addressing the ticking-bomb, otherwise known as ethnic federalism. Now  anyone can see where Abiy’s Ethiopia is under his watch. The final goal for Andrew and Abiy is  the same—to see the Ethiopia we know cease to exist. Note this: Andrew following his mentors  from extreme Oromo ethno-nationalists calls Ethiopia that should cease to exist—imperial  Ethiopia. Imperial Ethiopia ceased to exist in 1974, never to return! But Abiy would not say  anything in those terms because he knows what that means for his political power. In order to  retain his power with the support of millions of Ethiopians, he tells them again and again a  prosperous Ethiopia is in the making when thousands and thousands of its citizens live in a  slaughter-house and have perished under his watch.

What makes Andrew another “Abiy” is this: Both work to realize the agenda of Oromo  nationalists—to see Ethiopia cease to exist, but in their words they tell us the beauty of Ethiopia  when Ethiopia is being mutilated in the hands of extreme Oromo nationalists. Oromo nationalists,  activists and some politicians are critical, in public, of Abiy for not accelerating the demise of  Ethiopia while he still has power. Andrew’s criticism of Abiy is one and the same but his approach  is more subtle. My article is intended to expose that subtle but blatantly misguided project in the  name of political theology and “neighbor-love.” The political theology that informs Andrew’s  project is confused and what he tells us that he promotes “neighbor-love” is just a subtle cover up for his agenda—to liberate Ethiopians from imperial Ethiopia! How convenient! I recommend  to Andrew to make an effort in Chicago where real neighbor-love for blacks and whites is so badly  needed at least to slightly reduce the non-stop and senseless violence and death in his own  neighborhood! 

Notes :

1Foreign Policy magazine June 18, 2022.  

2https://borkena.com/2019/12/19/a-portrait-of-jawar-mohammed-by-andrew-decort-by-tedla-woldeyohannes/

3https://mehalarada.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/the-oromo-national-charter-and-the-future-of-ethiopia-a-plea for-clarity-tedla-wyohannes-ph-d/ and https://borkena.com/2016/11/29/ethiopia-what-is-the-ultimate-goal-of the-oromo-movement/ and https://borkena.com/2016/12/14/who-is-seeking-a-referendum-the-oromo-people or-oromo-elites-tedla-woldeyohannes-phd/ 

4 https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2020/10/08/a-moral-dilemma-for-ethiopias-professor-andreas-eshete/

5https://borkena.com/2019/12/19/a-portrait-of-jawar-mohammed-by-andrew-decort-by-tedla-woldeyohannes/
6 http://ethiopia360.com/an-open-letter-to-prime-minister-hailemariam-desalegn-tedla-woldeyohannes-ph-d/
7 https://ethiopanorama.com/?p=43292

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Andrew DeCort is a Western mercenary who married one of our women to supplement his Neo-Colonist career.

    He has an agenda and is working against us yet these cheap, uneducated, illiterate, subservient “Ethiopians” support him.

    They give him content, reactions, likes, views, comments, etc and he benefits from it.

    He makes money from our misery!

  2. Well resoaked and articulated article. Sadly Ethiopia kept sliding down into the hands of criminal, robbers and radical ethnocentric bigots.

    All the great news, Ethiopia was known for, rich cultures, history, humbleness, harmonies, tolerance and coexistence is gone and tarnished by few ethnocentric ignorant savage TPLF and now by the still birth of TPLF, Orommuma Genocidal robbers and fascists under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed.

    Your article is very appreciated and welcomed for caring for one of the ancient civilized country called Ethiopia!!

  3. Christian nationalism is destroying the US, Europe, Australia and South Africa, now it is determined to destroy Africa too??? This terrible force for death must be stopped!

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